Teetotalism on a Thursday night

It’s a Thursday night and with what appears to be most of the student body of Oxford University, I find myself standing on the overcrowded, dimly-lit dancefloor of Bridge. Like everyone else, I’m screaming along to a song with no discernible lyrics. Like everyone else, I’m awkwardly twisting my body, attempting to “cut shapes” and vainly hoping that my spasmodic movements are somehow correlating to the rhythm of the infectious beat. Except unlike what appears to be everyone else, I’ve not had a drop of alcohol. Supposedly one in five adults is teetotal, but looking around at this thronging army of students celebrating the fact that they got past deadline day, it doesn’t feel like it. 

 I’ve been teetotal for most of my life, barring a few brief flirtations with beer, and one disastrous attempt at a vodka and coke. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I particularly have anything against alcohol. My teetotalism isn’t born out of any moral or religious issues, I just don’t do drinking. In actual fact, I have a profound respect for alcohol. Alcohol brings my friends to life and turns the quietest, most timid Maths student into an affectionate, overly-emotional John Travolta wannabe, and let’s be honest, none of the best stories start with “Well, we’d all had a bit too much tea!”

So it’s Thursday, and once again, I’m the only one of my group that hasn’t hit the wine. Yet I’m here, I’m dancing and I couldn’t be happier. That is, until my drunken friend staggers up to me and shouts “I don’t know how you do it! I’d never have fun if I was sober!”

Ah, this statement! Every night out I’ve ever been on, I’ve heard this statement, normally more than once, and usually by the same person. Where did this idea come from? When did we decide that we can’t enjoy parties? Okay, I’ll admit it, sober clubbing can be annoying. You find yourself hot and suffocated, you are acutely aware of the sweat-drenched clothing stuck to your skin and the fact that fifteen strangers have just touched you in the past minute. None of this really bothers me though and neither does the embarrassment of dancing. Once you realise that no one looks graceful dancing along to Mr Brightside, performing shocking dad-dancing in the middle of the floor becomes something of an exhilarating stress relief.

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Yes, okay, clubbing is annoying, and part of me doesn’t blame my friend for wondering why I put myself through it. At two o’clock in the morning, when I’m dragging someone home as they alternate between singing Disney songs and being sick, I start to question it myself. At the end of the day though, I do it because it’s fun. Not only is it considerably cheaper when you’re buying lemonade, not vodka and cranberry juices, not only do I wake up the next morning feeling fresh and cheerful, but it’s honestly good, clean fun. There’s something oddly charming about a night out, the kind of atmosphere that you just don’t get anywhere else. From pre-drinking in someone’s room, trying to ignore that slight fear of getting Deaned when the tenth person comes into the room, to the long walk to Wahoo (though to be fair, as a Brasenose student, anything that’s not in the centre of town is considered a long walk), the whole thing can still be fun without having a drink.

Through it all, two things stand out, and it’s these two things that drag me out again and again, even after I’ve promised myself I’ll take a night off and tackle that Hardy novel waiting on the bedside table. The first is the memories. For some reason, so much happens on a night out, not just big things like who got together, but little conversations whilst taking a breather in the smoking area, the opportunity to marvel at the dance moves your inebriated friends think are cool and the unending pleasure of watching your best friend acting smooth and trying to pull. What’s more, you remember everything in the morning and there’s nothing quite like the awkward conversation over brunch as everyone wonders exactly what you remember them doing the night before. More than this though, there’s the most important thing about a night out, the one levelling factor that unites the drunk and the sober alike and the one thing that makes the whole ordeal worth it, time after time. What else but the mighty and illimitable post-night out Hassan’s?

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